New York elected officials greeted the trio of guilty verdicts against former Minnesota police officer Derek Chauvin with relief Tuesday — while the Big Apple braced itself for waves of possible protest following the trial’s end.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and First Lady Chirlane McCray — the first mixed-race family to occupy Gracie Mansion — applauded the verdicts from the Minneapolis jury in the George Floyd murder trial and appealed for calm in city streets tonight.
“Today, justice was served,” wrote de Blasio, of the disgraced cop’s conviction. “Make no mistake, today’s verdict is not the end.”
He added: “I urge peace and calm tonight as we begin the work of achieving further progress.”
McCray — only the second black woman to be the city’s first lady — was blunter.
“Chauvin’s actions sullied an entire profession and enraged people of good will around the world,” she wrote. “Black Lives Matter. They mattered yesterday. They matter today. They will matter tomorrow.”
State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Westchester) — the first African American woman to hold the powerful post — said she was “heartened” by the ruling, but added that she believed far more needed to be done.
“We must remember that this verdict is not true justice. True justice would mean that George Floyd would have walked away from that encounter alive,” she wrote. “It would mean that he would be able to watch his daughter grow up.”
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, who was also the first African American elected to his post, echoed Stewart-Cousins sentiment.
“George Floyd’s murder was a tragedy. It was a crime that the entire world witnessed on video over the course of nine minutes and 29 seconds,” said the Democrat from The Bronx in a statement. “That Derek Chauvin was found guilty on all counts is important and it is right. But I also know we must continue to challenge the system that enabled his murder in the first place.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the state’s embattled three-term executive, also released a statement shortly after the verdicts came down that described the findings of guilt as a “powerful statement of accountability.”
“George Floyd’s family and his loved ones got well-deserved closure, and all of us who deeply and personally felt his loss gained hope in the possibility of progress,” Cuomo added.
State’s Attorney General Letitia James — the first African American and the first woman elected to the position — offered her prayers to the Floyd family.
“While true justice will never be served as long as Black men and women are subjected to such inequality, today, we are one step closer to a fairer system,” she said in a statement.
Reaction was also local — and political — as it poured in from the top contenders seeking to replace de Blasio, who is leaving office at the end of 2021 under the city’s term limits law.
Black and African American voters are among the largest and sought-after voting blocks in city politics.
Maya Wiley, the former top de Blasio advisor, headed to Barclays Center in Brooklyn to address the crowds that began to gather as word of Chauvin’s conviction spread.
“We got justice, for once. For once, we got a little bit of what we deserve — to be seen as people who deserve to breathe,” she said.
Wiley — who would be the city’s first woman and second African American mayor, if elected — also reiterated her calls to reduce the New York City Police Department’s headcount and slash its budget by $1 billion while at Barclays.
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, a frontrunner in the race and a former cop, released a statement that called the verdict “justice.”
“Police departments across the country are infected by racism and only serious reforms that bring diversity, transparency and humanity to policing will prevent the death of the next George Floyd,” he added.
Andrew Yang, the leader in recent polls, called Floyd’s death “an unconscionable act of police brutality.”
Those sentiments were echoed by Ray McGuire, who was one of the highest ranking black executives to ever work on Wall Street.
“Police officers across the entire chain of command must be held accountable for the actions of their department, not just the one whose knee took a man’s life,” he said.
Comptroller Scott Stringer described the verdict as “commendable,” but added that “our fight for justice is far from over.”
“The fact that this verdict was anything but a foregone conclusion tells you everything you need to know about how our justice system devalues Black lives,” he said.
Former Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia — who has two black adopted siblings — said she hoped today’s verdict would bring “peace and closure to George Floyd, his family and his loved ones.”
“No matter the verdict, nothing will ever erase George Floyd’s unjust murder or ease the loss for his family,” she added.
The renewed calls to lay off cops and divert $1 billion in police funding to social services were key rallying points for many younger activists who marched under the Black Lives Matter banner after Floyd’s death last year.
But the push was ultimately defeated by many black and African American lawmakers on the City Council, who represent poorer and working-class city neighborhoods that were ravaged by the city’s crime epidemic in the 1980s and early 1990s.
Instead, the Council and de Blasio struck a deal that promised to nix or move about $800 million in spending — primarily by shifting the school safety and crossing guard divisions to other agencies and halving the department’s overtime budget.
The divisions have yet to be transferred and recent independent budget analyses found the PD is running well over its overtime caps.
Additional reporting by Craig McCarthy